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The visibly emotional Cop26 president said he was “deeply sorry” for the way the had process unfolded, after India and China forced a last-minute change to the text of the deal agreed in Glasgow on Saturday.
Addressing delegates, he said: “May I just say to all delegates I apologise for the way this process has unfolded and I am deeply sorry.”
He added: “I also understand the deep disappointment but I think as you have noted, it’s also vital that we protect this package.”
The climate pact, sealed after intense last-minute wrangling at the UN conference, recognised the need for cuts in carbon emissions but put off the pledges needed to achieve them until next year.
But in a dramatic last-minute intervention, India and China significantly watered down commitments on fossil fuels, securing the change of a single word to ensure the pact calls for coal power generation to be “phased down” rather than “phased out”.
The move was strongly criticised by several nations at the summit, including Switzerland, which warned: “This will not bring us closer to 1.5C but will make it more difficult to reach it. Critical delegates said they would still support the agreement for fear of leaving Glasgow without a deal.
The representative for Fiji also criticised the last-minute change.
He told the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow: “What we would like to express was not just our astonishment but our immense disappointment in the manner in which this has been introduced.”
He said days before they were warned against making “last-minute” changes to the text and said “due process” had not been followed.
Despite criticism, the deal is a landmark of sorts in that it is the first explicit mention of fossil fuels in a UN climate agreement.
The deal aims to keep limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels “alive” or within reach, in the face of a huge gap between the action countries are taking and what is needed to meet the goal.
Additional reporting by Press Association